Nikola Cerovic, New Director of Ball Packaging Europe in Belgrade: Ball Invests in Serbia – Circularity, Recycling and Innovations as Foundations of Success

Source: Promo Wednesday, 28.02.2024. 10:12
Nikola Cerovic, director of Ball Packaging Europe in Belgrade (Photo: Ball Packaging/Promo)Nikola Cerovic, director of Ball Packaging Europe in Belgrade
Ball Corporation, which has been operating successfully in Serbia for 19 years now and which is a leader in the production of packaging – aluminum cans, is the biggest American greenfield investment in our country, in whose production millions of euros have been invested so far. The successful operations are also shown by the fact that, at the Belgrade factory, on an annual level, billions of cans are produced, a half of which are meant for export. In the coming period, investments are planned which will enable an increase of the volume of the production in the next years.

In May 2023, you took the position of the production manager in Ball Packaging Belgrade, with nearly 12 years of experience in Ball Corporation in leading positions. How do you see the position of Ball Packaging today, and where do you see it in the coming period?

– Ball Beverage Packaging Europe has been operating in Serbia since 2005. In these 19 years, we have been carefully building the position of a market leader in the field of packaging industry, production of aluminum cans, the packaging which is increasingly the first choice of both the consumers and the purchasers. This is also supported by the fact that the factory in Belgrade produces billions of cans each year. Today, Ball Packaging is one of the biggest exporters from Serbia, which is very important, because we thereby contribute to the external trade of our country and have a positive impact on the budget of the Republic of Serbia. In addition to that, through a developed network of local suppliers, we have a positive impact on the development of the economy in Serbia. In 2022, we had business cooperation with numerous local suppliers and considerable turnover was realized with them. In the coming period, we will remain dedicated to the further development of our business through new investments and innovations, complying with the principles of sustainability and circularity.

Which investments are planned for this and next year and what will this mean for the Belgrade factory and the operations of Ball Packaging?

– In all these years, Ball has been continuously investing in the Belgrade factory, and in the next period, I can happily confirm, a very important investment is planned, which will enable the introduction of another production line, which I believe will strengthen our position in the market and help us realize even better results and growth.

It is well-known that Ball Packaging advocates recycling and that a high percentage of the cans you produce comes precisely from used beverage cans. What are your goals regarding this question and why is this important for your operations?

– That is right, to us a used can is a resource, not waste. That is what circularity and sustainable operations are based on. As envisaged in the Ball Climate Transition Plan, our goal is for the recycling rate in all markets that Ball has been operating in to be raised to 90%, and for the percentage of recycled material in our cans to be 85% as of 2030, whereby the set goals of reducing CO2 emissions would be achieved. At the moment, around 73% of aluminum cans is recycled in Europe. Aluminum packaging can be recycled an unlimited number of times with minimal losses and that is why it is a demanded material in all recycling systems.

In Serbia, Ball works actively on promoting recycling and educating all the key parts of the public about this issue through the Recan Foundation and cooperation with the project “Every Can Counts”. We educate the youngest ones through a theater which recycles through the project “Can Ticket” since 2009. Numerous children, around 82 thousand of them, have had the opportunity to enjoy theater plays for children by recycling cans, and 700 thousand used cans have been collected. We also advocate, through the Alliance for Circular Packaging, which consists of leaders in the production of packaging, the adoption of legal solutions which will eventually enable us to remain competitive in the EU market.

In practice, this means that each aluminum can that is produced in Serbia, as well as in EU states, will have to be made from used cans, in order to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, and the percentage will grow each year. That is why recycling has become not just an environmental issue, but an economic one as well. To increase the recycling rate, efficient waste collection is needed, which is only possible through the introduction of a deposit system, for all single-use beverage packaging made from all materials. Our opinion is based on an independent and professional study that the expert house Eunomia has carried out for the territory of Serbia.

(Photo: Ball Packaging/Promo)

What are the goals of Ball Corporation globally and locally when it comes to sustainable operations and circularity? What are you doing in concrete terms regarding this issue?

– This level of production is also a great responsibility and that is why Ball Corporation approaches the topics of circularity and sustainable operations with a plan, responsibly, proactively and equally in all markets. Recently, Ball published the Climate Transition Plan, which pertains to all factories, including the one in Belgrade. The plan follows the UN guidelines for the decarbonization of the economy in order to stop the global temperature increase. In concrete terms, this means taking certain measures when it comes to our operations, so that CO2 emissions would reduce by 55% by 2030 and so that a full degree of decarbonization and zero emissions of CO2 would be reached between 2040 and 2050.

Ball Corporation currently employs hundreds of people, partly in production, partly in Ball Global Business Services EMEA, which provides business support to the basic operations through several models on a global basis. What kind of a role do the employees at Ball play in the results that you’ve presented and the overall operations of Ball Packaging in Serbia?

– The employees at Ball play a key role in our operations. I believe, and those are also the postulates within Ball, that it is necessary to build a healthy atmosphere among the staff, good relations between the colleagues and an adequate balance between private and business lives. A healthy environment entails financial security and the possibility of advancement, but also learning and career development. We have built an inclusive, hospitable working environment, which fosters talents and new ideas. We strive to build connections through joint experiences which help the employees grow personally and in terms of their careers. Also, we always share the joy of all the successes that our teams achieve. All those investments make us a stronger more creative and more resilient company. Finally, through the Recan Foundation, we carry out a range of responsible activities, which contribute to better lives and a more just society, both for our employees and for the clients and the community we live and work in.

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